Learn all about the Yucca Learning Community
Yucca Blossom Montessori was founded as a nonprofit educational institution in 2015 by Natalie London and Deidra Mitchell to expand high-quality early childhood education in Midland, TX following the philosophical principles of Maria Montessori.
At the time they met, both Natalie and Deidra were independently providing Montessori education through licensed, in-home childcare centers. Realizing that they shared a powerful vision, they merged their dreams under the Yucca Blossom name.
As their children grew alongside the Yucca Blossom community of children, Deidra and Natalie recognized the need to expand their vision to include elementary, middle school, and high school learning environments. Yucca Studios: An Acton Academy was founded as an Acton Academy affiliate in 2019 to meet the need for thoughtful education from childhood through adolescence in Midland.
Director and Children's House guide
Natalie was born and raised in Odessa, TX. After spending her adolescence and early adulthood elsewhere in various parts of Texas, she returned to the Permian Basin with her husband in 2012. Natalie has been involved with Montessori education since 2004. Natalie knew that there was something very special about this way of educating after her first internship at Belden St. Montessori School in Sherman, TX. After graduating from Austin College with a B.A. in History, she moved to Austin to continue her immersion in Montessori education. She spent 8 years at Austin Montessori School, working in the roles of guide, assistant, and campus coordinator. Her experience there allowed her to see the impact of the Montessori philosophy on children and their families from infancy through adolescence.
Natalie completed her AMI Primary Training in 2007 under the direction of Joen Bettmann in Atlanta, GA. She went on to complete her Master of Education at Loyola University in 2009. Natalie serves both as the Director of Yucca Learning and as the Children’s House guide. She loves the opportunity to share the greater vision of Montessori with the parent community, but her greatest joy is in watching the unfolding of a child’s wonder.
Natalie and her family love living in Midland. You might spy them at the duck pond, scouting out the Midland Downtown Farmers’ Market, or enjoying a new artist’s work at the Museum of the Southwest.
Deidra holds her Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education. She has helped to train staff, develop and implement curriculum, and facilitate parent education at early childcare centers from New Mexico to Buffalo. She went on to help them become National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited. She has spent over 20 years working with infants, toddlers, and their parents.
It was love at first sight when Deidra first encountered Montessori philosophy. Though she could not take a formal training right away, she began incorporating as much of the Montessori philosophy into her life as possible. Deidra completed her AMI Assistants to Infancy training in 2017 under the direction of Sara Brady at the Montessori Institute of North Texas.
She and her husband became foster parents in Buffalo and adopted their son, who is now 14. After his adoption was final they returned to Texas to be closer to family. Since moving to Midland, Deidra had twin girls and one more daughter. Their family of 6 loves Midland, and plans to call it home forever. You can find them swimming in the pool, riding bikes at the park, or welcoming the whole neighborhood over for backyard fun and delicious food.
What is Montessori Education?
Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms, children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore the knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.
Montessori classrooms are beautifully crafted environments designed to meet the needs of children in a specific age range. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that experiential learning in this type of classroom led to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions, and much more.
Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development; creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities. Children are free to learn through their own experience and at their own pace. They can respond at any moment to the natural curiosities that exist in all humans and build a solid foundation for life-long learning.
*Excerpted from the Montessori Northwest website: www.montessori-nw.org
What are the key elements of a Montessori classroom?
- Mixed-age grouping of at least 3-year span
- Freedom of choice in activities
- A 3-hour, uninterrupted work cycle
- Didactic materials developed by Dr. Maria Montessori
- An expectation of respect for others, the materials, and the surrounding environment
In Montessori education, the child chooses what she will do based upon her own interest. The ability to choose for one’s self is an empowering privilege. By freely choosing work, the child begins to experience concentration and a love of engaging in hard work. When this is repeated regularly, the child builds self-direction and a sense of capability and responsibility. It is the pathway to authentic self- esteem.
At Yucca Blossom Montessori, we know that the adult, teacher or assistant, is there to guide the child gently and consistently toward greater growth and success.